I abruptly awoke to the sound of banging at my door on March 11th, 2020. I had been studying abroad in Barcelona for about 2 months enjoying and savoring my experience. I was living with four other girls who never bothered me or were too noisy coming home from a night out, but today was different. In a daze, I got out of bed and shuffled to my door and opened it to find my roommate crying, “Grace you have to get up and call your parents, Trump is closing the borders.” I froze for a moment thinking what she said was a joke but deep down I knew it had to be true. For weeks, all I googled and thought about was coronavirus and how the spread would only get worse. Back home in the United States, it seemed to be more of a joke than anything so I never worried too much. Emails began to flood into the inboxes of abroad students everywhere. “A student in your program is getting tested for COVID-19” it would read. In early March, Olivia began to experience flu-like symptoms. Olivia was my roommate.
Olivia had traveled to Florence to visit her friends and when she got home, she began to experience flu-like symptoms almost instantly. No preventative measures were taken at the airport nor was she required to have her temperature taken even though the virus was a hot topic of a conversation. Olivia and I decided to go to a local clinic our study abroad program recommended due to her symptoms. Olivia wore her mask on the bus and her terrible sounding cough scared a lot of locals out of our way. When she entered the clinic the main nurse at the desk spoke no English which was a challenge to describe her symptoms. We waited for what felt like hours. Olivia finally got into a room with a doctor where she described her symptoms and her temperature was taken. The doctor told Olivia he was very afraid she did have coronavirus and suggested she go to the hospital. Twenty minutes following a doctor telling Olivia she most likely had coronavirus they permitted us to leave and strongly urged us to go to the hospital. At this moment Olivia and I were shocked. “I could just turn around and go home at this moment and no would ever know,” we realized how scary this virus truly was. People walking past you in the streets, serving your food or even your classmate could be carrying the virus but not ever be tested.
We decided to walk to the hospital but what we found when we got there was even more unpromising. The wait time to see a doctor was five hours. The only way to see a doctor urgently was to call an ambulance, which we decided to do. Olivia was tested and asked to quarantine while she awaited her results. The program director of our study abroad program sent Olivia to an off campus apartment to await her results and keep away from the public, including her roommates. The virus was spreading rapidly and had no cure or treatment, only sort of comparable to the Spanish flu of 1918. The healthcare system was in no way shape or form prepared for a pandemic of this measure nor was any country fully prepared. Olivia ended up not having the virus and returned home to the US safely but will never forget her experience in a foreign country during the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic.
Spain jumped into action and shut down its streets for quarantine, only permitting citizens to leave when necessary. On the other hand, the US hesitated to take action which could have been the biggest factor causing our number of cases to soar. Healthcare systems and medical access were a huge aspect of handling this virus and Olivia experienced it first-hand. Currently, Spain’s numbers are decreasing and quarantine measures are on the verge of being loosened whereas in the US we still are struggling to get back on our feet. Millions of people are jobless and can’t pay their rent or afford groceries in bulk. Our hospitals are crowded and lack the proper medical gear for doctors and nurses to stay safe themselves. Testing is also starting to become more available but still at a shortage. Nations are joining together to support one another and defeat this virus. We don’t know what’s to come, no matter what country you live in, we are all at risk during this unprecedented time.